اساں جاناں اے مال و مال
The Mall, originally a road in London, from Buckingham Palace to Whitehall, has always been a ceremonious route. Bordered by trees, laid out in red surface colour it’s percieved as a red carpet leading to the Palace. Not surprising that the British in Colonial Era replicated the same terminology (The Mall) for the principal routes leading through various cities. In Pakistan, one finds The Mall Road at Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Murree and so on. The Mall, may it be anywhere, is one regal road and when it gets coupled with the charm of Lahore, the aura and romance gets doubled.
مال و مال / Mall-o-Mall (thoroughfare across The Mall) is one call shouted out by the conductors of the public transport plying on Mall Road at Lahore. The shout is loud and clear, has this typically indifferent tone with a tinge of pride and tenacity in it. Rightly so, as the Mall Road is one prime structure, passing through the heart of Lahore’s political and establishment elite, used by the state vehicles on officially laid out routes escorted by the equally fad entourages. It goes a step further when Abrar ul Haq, a Pakistani folk singer, elevates the Mall to be a status symbol in his famous song
چھوٹی موٹی روڈ توں برات نئیں لنگھانی
اساں جاناں اے مال و مال
whereby a wedding procession is to be plied through and through The Mall with just one aim, to impress the to be in laws. With the recent developments at Lahore, a lot many other routes have surfaced and the city’s communication structure has been re-defined, but the grandeur of The Mall stays and is there to stay.
Dear reader, for us, me and Rashid Minhas (a PAF pilot with virtually no planes to fly for quite sometime, hence managing to spend considerable time at Lahore), the intention was not to get some wedding procession heading through The Mall. We wanted to have a feel of it as one plies on this regal road of Lahore, and to have a feel of a street, track or road, it’s not to travel the distance but to scale the yards. On that sunny Sunday, short of Mian Mir bridge, with Fortress Stadium on our right hand side, we started to scale the yards all the way to the end, to the Lower Mall intersection.
The idea of scaling The Mall Road on foot might sound absurd, it exactly did as it got mutually disclosed the night before over dinner. It was one crazy thought and it was for the inherent insanity of the idea that we fell for it. The plan was to start early in the morning but the events of that morning are a bit hazy if recalled. With each one of us getting up at varying times and after a futile effort to wake the other, deciding to resume the nap one after the other, it was not before 10 in the morning that we were at the Start Point without having consumed anything to be branded as breakfast.
Starting from Mian Mir Bridge all the way up to the intersection with Lower Mall, this walk exposed us to various facades, faces and moods of the Mall Road. We came across some age old trees, the floral decorations of Jashn e Baharan, got surprised upon discovering Nazaria e Pakistan (Ideology of Pakistan) Trust at Madr e Millat Park, spent time in Lawrence Garden over a student style breakfast, explored some old buildings and bazaars and passed by some iconic landmarks of Lahore. It was a wholesome package and though we returned with the exhaustion of a tiring walk, but loaded with a wealth of street wisdom and quite a handful of snapshots. As a picture is worth a thousand words, dear reader, Mall Road snapshots are presented below as an extensive pinterest board for your viewing pleasure…